« AnteriorContinuar »
trash as this is it, that a French nobleman seeks to amuse his nation! The same spirit of exaggeration which is so manifest in the foregoing remarks, is still more apparent in the Baron's observations on our drawing-rooms, balls, &c. We confess, however, that the chapter on Family Connexions is not to be classed with the overcharged pictures of English manners, which the author has so profusely provided for the recreation of his countrymen. He states, that English families are much too numerous to be so completely united as to enable parents and relatives to extend their affection and care towards every branch of the vast progeny belonging to one family, It is to this circumstance that we are indebted for the fatal reality of the following description by the Baron.
· As soon as an education fitting for the future career of a young man is given him, so that he may be enabled to provide for himself, he is trained to do without those parental cares. This is one of the reasons why a' too numerous family causes so little anxiety to the parent, his paternal fortune being insufficient to secure to each of them an appropriate establishment. The family increases without the father giving himself any uneasiness as to what shall become of them. The eldest son will inherit the greater part, sometimes the whole, of the fortune, and will be charged with the duty, often faithfully fulfilled, of protecting the family. The other brothers follow a profession, or some employment. An Englishman has all the world before him: independently of the lucrative employments at home--independently of the numberless sinecures which the Government offices, the army, and above all the church, offer to the ambition and cupidity of powerful families, India presents assured fortunes not only to these, but to families of middle condition. The young men sent thither make their fortune or die, and thus the relations have nothing more to trouble themselves about, As to girls, all beiny by law excluded from the inheritance of the real estate, all have an equal chance of forming establishments. Happy they whom Nature has endowed with personal charms, or who belong to respectable families!'-Vol. i. pp. 41-43.
It is well observed by the author, that a sort of peculiarity in their social condition has been produced amongst the English, which distinguishes them from all other countries in the world, this is the result of the practise of separations and of legal divorces entered into by husbands or wives. One of the accidents to which these customs give rise, is, that the children, whose birth has preceded the divorce, maintain their social relations with their parents. Do they go to their father's house--they meet a step-mother. Does duty draw them towards their mother-they pay their respects to a father-in-law. They are well received everywhere-they put up with everything—nothing astonishes or afflicts them.
In no part of this work does the Frenchman betray his national partialities more strikingly than in the chapter on marriage; but it is only justice to him to admit, that he gives the preference to the English system of courtship. Whilst in all other civilized countries marriage is a tie which at least joins, if it do not perfectly unite, two beings who have agreed to pass their lives together; whereas, in England it is a chain which binds the movements, the wishes, and even the thoughts of the married pairs.
The succeeding subjects discussed by the author, are the treatment of foreigners in this country-the wealth of the various classes in England—country life, chiefly amongst the opulent classes, and English women, upon the latter of which the author has some remarks worthy of attention. Compared with the females of other countries, English women, in our author's estimation, perform a very unimportant part in society. He does not mean, in making this assertion, to insinuate that they have neither the genius nor energy to vindicate their proper rank in the community; on the con trary, he attributes this inferiority to the influence of customs and manners which impose a yoke on the sex, whereby the most decided characters amongst them are prostrated. The education of English females does not, like that of the French ladies, propose to create a sort of idol, destined to provoke general admiration; but it is altogether calculated to fit them for domestic life, to make them good mothers and good wives. The Baron tells us, that a presentiment of the privations which attend the married life, renders women in England less forward to enter the connubial state. But this, and other similar reflections made by the author, apply solely to the upper circles, which, from the artificial influences operating upon them, do not fairly become the standard whereby the national character of our women should be determined. Nevertheless, he is candid enough to admit that they owe to either their education or their native disposition, a great deal of that domestic happiness which it is not to be doubted that they enjoy: they bear the ill humour of their husbands with good temper, and even go further, by employing an officiousness, and an active care about the comfort and convenience of their families, which endears them to their husbancs: the desire they have to please their husbands is particularly indicated by the extreme neatness, and even the recherché in their dress, which is not neglected at any hour of the day. The English women, therefore, are utterly unacquainted with that spirit which has so strikingly actuated the female members of the French ton, who affect to reign over society, to lay down rules for its regulation, to modify its usages, and to inflict penalties after their own fashion on those who violate the laws which they enact. Occasionally severe, and even unjust, as the Baron is upon some classes of the females of England, yet he readily admits that they are among the most remarkable women of Europe; that they combine in their persons not only beauty, but all that renders beauty valuable, devotion to their duties, varied accomplishments, cultivated minds—the union, in a word, of all that constitutes the happiness of their domestic circle, and the charm of society.
We never knew a Frenchman who came to a due knowledge of the true import of the word “comfort,” who was not instantly put
out of temper by the recollection of the contrast between the two kingdoms, which is associated with that remarkable dissyllable. The reader will not be, therefore, surprised to find that the Baron, in touching on such a delicate matter, is absolutely
frightened from his propriety,” and condescends to indulge his contemptible jealousy at the expense of his credit for sound judgment. Comfort, observes the Ex-Minister of Marine, among the wealthy means great luxury, and an expensive establishment; amongst the middle classes, it means a heavy, well-stuffed, armchair, in which the master of the house goes to sleep after dinner! But let us enumerate some more of the comforts of which the author tells us the sons of Albion are so unreasonably boastful: a dinner of boiled fish, and of plain vegetables destined to be mixed by way of sauce with all one eats—a piece of roast beef cut from the hardest and most tasteless part of the carcass; in place of napkins, a corner of the table-cloth; in lieu of dessert, nuts, cheese, and raisins; chairs with rush bottoms, sometimes covered with a cushion, which the least movement causes to fall to the ground; immense four-post beds, with feather bed, beneath which is a paillasse so arranged as to produce the effect of an ill-joined table-no clocks-and in each room a coal-fire, whose dust and smoke soil every thing-grooved window-shutters, windows with running venetian blinds and sometimes ill-draped calico curtains of a dark pattern!
The truth is, that the "Mounseers," as we used formerly to call them, have no word in their language which they can substitute for our “comfort;" and they are mortified at their inability to supply such a desideratum, well knowing that the absence of the title is universally regarded as a certain proof of the absence of the reality. There never, indeed, was a point of national difference with respect to which we can afford to be more indulgent towards our calumniators than in this matter of comparative comfort.
We pass over several chapters in the first volume to come to the observations in which the author thinks proper to indulge concerning the professions in this country. With respect to medicine, he thinks that both in teaching and in practice we are
backward state, but that still the duration of human life is quite as long as it is in France, where the Baron thinks that a better medical system exists. He does not even hesitate to conclude that the science of the physicians only contributes in a very feeble degree to the preservation of human life. From the medical profession the author makes a transition to the clerical, and presents us with portraits of the French and English clergymen. The portrait of the former is given in the language of a deputy of the French Chamber, who delivered it from the tribune in the following terms:
'A priest in France is a simple man, without family, without credit, of little influence, poorly clad in black, who supplies, by an inward piety, a great disinterestedness, and a fervent charity, those exterior advantages which are wanting to him. He is not to be met in the salons, because there his qualities are not necessary, and he would find himself misplaced; too often sprung from the lower classes of society, he opposes, at times, an indiscreet pride to the lowness of his origin. The mediocrity of his fortune leaves him no other resource for doing good, than to importune those who have wealth to succour those who have nothing'--Vol. i. pp. 245, 246.
Now let us hear his own description of an English clergyman
* An English clergyman is a man of distinguished birth, surrounded by a numerous family, provided with a rich benefice, living in luxury, participating in every pleasure, in all the enjoyments of the world-playing, hunting, dancing, attending the theatres, neither grave nor serious, unless nature has made him so; he is one who hoards his emoluments in order to settle his children; who spends his fortune in wagering, in horses, in dogs, sometimes (when he is thoughtless and devoid of foresight) with a mistress; in any event giving little to the poor, and leaving their case, and the fulfilment of duties which he disdains, to some unfortunate curate, who, for a miserable stipend, is obliged to exhibit the virtues and to fulfil the duties which the incumbent despises and neglects.'-Vol. i. pp. 246, 247.
After some observations on the religious customs in England, the baron enters upon the subjects of emigration, and the poor, and concludes the first volume with remarks on the mob. The canaille of England are distinguished, he says, by a grossness of manners which places them lower in the social scale than the inferior ranks of any other nation. As a further proof of the disposition of the author to exaggerate, particularly when the character of this country is to be lessened, we select the following description:
* Taken collectively, the populace of England is remarkable for its cowardice. Its turbulent disposition, which it is always prompt to manifest, is easily suppressed by the staff, often by the presence, of a few policemen. The character of individuals must be studied, in order to find
among them some indications of courage. The fights in which the lower classes indulge prove that they are capable of violent anger, have a strong tendency to revenge, great contempt for the consequences of the struggle in which they engage, and much generosity during the progress of the combat. Behold two porters preparing to box : they strip in silence, hand their clothes to the spectators, tuck up the sleeves of their shirts, place theniselves at two paces from each other, and exhibit a menacing attitude, but a cool and collected demeanour. Blows are quickly given and parried; they are exchanged with a rapidity which in no degree diminishes their force, and rarely, when they tell, do they fail to knock down the most vigorous. When one of the parties is down, his adversary can no longer strike him. The fight is suspended, the conqueror assumes
vol. IV. (1833) no. 1.
his place and bis attitude, whilst, raised from the ground, with his head reposing on the knee of a spectator, the apparently vanquished is encouraged by his friends, and by the stimulus of a glass of porter. The watches of the time-keeper and of the anxious spectators indicate the moment assigned by the laws of the ring for the recommencement of hostilities. This time expired, the battle recommences, and is pursued until the weakness caused by the effusion of blood, as well as by the violence of the blows, and by a total prostration of force, determines the defeat, and puts an end to the combat.
• The phlegmatic indifference so remarkable during the preparations for battle, is not affected by the struggle just terminated. Each of the parties leisurely washes his face, and officious by-standers proceed to staunch the wounds of their favourites. The combatants at length put on their clothes and return home, after having wastefully expended in this ignoble boxing.match ten times more courage than well-bred duellists have need of to cross their swords, or to exchange shots which never harm them.'— Vol. i.
pp. 280—282. The author complains exceedingly of the systems which are adopted in our hospitals, particularly those for the reception of lunatics, and in our prisons. The pertinacity with which we devote the small spaces round our churches to the burying of the dead, forms another of the chief illustrations whereby the baron strives to justify his charges against the civil and domestic police of our country. He very candidly admits the immensity, the universality of our commerce, and also that its produce to England has raised her to an unheard-of state of prosperity. But then she has made a bad use of her commercial prosperity, and, by wantonly exercising her power, has ultimately revolted all other nations, and these are now engaged every where in an effort to escape a domination which could not longer be borne. Every thing, the author appears to think, tends towards a complete revolution in the commercial system of the world. Each step made in this onward career will throw England back. She already manifests many symptoms of decay. Her American colonies are forced, by the excess of their sufferings, to turn towards the United States, with which they have more affinity of interests and affections, as well as an easier and more prompt inter
The East Indies no longer present a field for the profitable outlay of capital. The consciousness of their own strength may one day induce these colonies to separate from a mothercountry which only protects them within the limit, and according to the conformity of her own interests with their's. He admits, likewise, that English industry is on a scale equally vast and wonderful as English commerce, candidly observing, that in no country of the world has industry been so developed, or attained so great a degree of prosperity as amongst us. There is, however, a limit to the author's applause, when he comes to consider the eagerness with which we have carried on measures to substitute